Global roundup

27 January 2003 00:00  [Source: ACN]

A UN inspection team found 11 empty chemical warheads during the period 16-23 January. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez threatened to pull out from the crisis talks, and China unveiled its second official petrochemical hub

From stories supplied by the CNI and ACN teams. See For exclusive news and analysis, see the rest of ACN

PML restarts methanol plant

16 January. Petronas Methanol Labuan (PML) has restarted its 660 000 tonne/year plant in Labuan, Malaysia, after a two-month scheduled maintenance shutdown.

Before the shutdown, the Malaysian methanol plant had been running at 80% since 15 October 2002, following an earlier two-week shutdown due to a stoppage in gas deliveries by Petronas Gas which wanted to conduct maintenance work at its facilities.

KP Chem to shut C6, PX units

16 January. KP Chemical will shut its 100 000 tonne/year benzene unit and two paraxylene (PX)plants with a combined capacity of 700 000 tonne/year in Ulsan, South Korea, in April for routine maintenance, a company source said.

KP Chemical is also expected to turn around its three purified terephthalic acid plants with a combined capacity of 1.5m tonne/year and five bottle-grade polyethylene terephthalate lines with a combined capacity of 200 000 tonne/year in Ulsan.

Cosmo to close C6 plant for turnaround

16 January. Cosmo Matsuyama Oil Co will shut down its 88 000 tonne/year benzene plant in Matsuyama, Japan, for one month for routine maintenance from 9-10 March, a spokesman for Maruzen Petrochemical said.

Maruzen has no plans to shut down its two 200 000 tonne/year benzene plants in Goi, Chiba, he added. Japan's Cosmo Oil Co is a major shareholder in Maruzen

Nippon Oil's C6 unit for maintenance

16 January. Nippon Oil Corp will be shutting down a 100 000 tonne/year benzene line at its 300 000 tonne/year plant in Mizushima, Japan, for three weeks of routine maintenance in July, a Nippon Petrochemical spokesman said.

The company has not yet finalised the exact date of the shutdown, but no shutdowns are planned for the remaining three lines at Mizushima in 2003, he said. Nippon Petrochemical oversees benzene production for Nippon Oil.

Technip secures BASF's Caojing contract

16 January. Technip-Coflexip said it has won a lumpsum contract from BASF to build the world's largest polytetrahydrofuran (polyTHF) production facility.

To be built in Caojing, Shanghai, China, the plant will further BASF's ambitions in the rapidly developing Chinese spandex (synthetic elastic) fibres market.

With completion scheduled for H2 2004, the new plant will have 60 000 tonne/year of polyTHF. It will also make 80000 tonne/year of tetrahydrofuran.

Gail signs petchem MoC with Iran

16 January. Gail India on Thursday signed a memorandum of co-operation (MoC) with National Iranian Oil Company and National Iranian Gas Export Co to develop business opportunities in Iranian gas and petrochemicals.

The areas of co-operation covered by the MoC include the development of gas-based petrochemical plants in Iran; petrochemicals trading; participation in production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Iran and import of LNG to India; exploration and production of hydrocarbons in both countries; transportation of compressed natural gas (CNG) in both countries; the development of residential gas supply; and CNG infrastructure in both countries and third countries.

UN team finds chemical warheads in Iraq

16 January. A UN inspection team has found 11 empty chemical warheads 'in excellent condition' in a large group of bunkers at Ukhaider in central Iraq.

In a statement issued today by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) in Baghdad and circulated by UN headquarters in New York City, an Unmovic spokesman was quoted as saying: 'During the course of their inspection, the team discovered 11 empty 122mm chemical warheads and one warhead that requires further evaluation.'

India cuts China HFA antidumping duties

17 January. The Indian government has reduced its antidumping duties on the import of hydrofluoric acid (HFA) from China.

The reduction of these duties, which are calculated as the difference between a reference price and the landed value of imported material, is retrospective effect from 28 March 2002 - the date of imposition of provisional duties.

Saddam warns against attack on Iraq

17 January. Marking the 12th anniversary of the start of the Gulf War, President Saddam Hussein warned today that any attempt to conquer his nation would end in failure. He made no reference to the UN. Instead, he sought to rally the nation.

'The people of Baghdad have resolved to compel the Mongols of this age to commit suicide on its walls,' Saddam said, referring to the US. 'Everyone who tries to climb over its wallsÉwill fail in his attempt.'

He said the Iraqi nation was fully mobilised against the threat of a new conflict and told President George Bush to 'keep your evil away from the mother of civilisation'.

Qatar Petroleum signs deals for LAB

17 January. Qatar Petroleum has signed a front-end engineering design and project management consultancy contract for its linear alkyl benzene (LAB) project with Foster Wheeler and a process-technology engineering licence and guarantee contract with UOP-UK.

The project includes an n-paraffin plant with a capacity of 80 000 tonne/year and a LAB plant with a capacity of 100000 tonne/year. Costing about US$240m, it is scheduled to be ready in Q4 2005.

The LAB will be produced from normal-paraffin and benzene. The n-paraffin plant will be designed to process hydro-treated straight-run kerosene from the adjacent Qatar Petroleum Refinery.

Chavez may pull out from crisis talks

18 January. President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday his government was considering withdrawing from negotiations with opposition leaders about solving Venezuela's political crisis.

His comments, made by telephone to a late-night state television news programme in Caracas, raised doubts about the future of peace talks with opposition leaders currently being brokered by Organization of American States Secretary General Cesar Gaviria.

The negotiations are trying to end the conflict behind a 48-day-old opposition strike that has slashed oil output and shipments by the world's No5 petroleum exporter.

Showa Denko, Kyowa Hakko in jv talks

18 January. Showa Denko and Kyowa Hakko are discussing integrating their ethyl acetate business, but no firm deal has been drawn up, said a spokesman from Showa Denko.

The motivation for the joint-venture is expansion of production capacity and market share through consolidation, the spokesman added.

Showa Denko's combined production capacity of ethyl acetate is second only to BP's. It operates a 150 000 tonne/ year plant in Tokuyama, Japan, and a 60 000 tonne/year plant in Merak, Indonesia.

The company is also studying a 50 000 tonne/year ethyl acetate plant in China.

Kyowa Hakko operates a 42 000 tonne/year ethyl acetate plant in Yokkaichi, Japan.

Cadila to merge with subsidiaries

20 January. Cadila Healthcare Ltd (CHL) has decided in principle to merge with four of its subsidiaries so that the Zydus Cadila group of companies has only one listing on Indian bourses.

The four subsidiaries are German Remedies Ltd , which was acquired from two German companies in 2001, Recon Healthcare Ltd, acquired from Indian entrepreneurs in 2000, Zydus Pathline Ltd which once operated as the diagnostics division of CHL, and Zoom Properties Ltd which owns and manages real estate in Mumbai.

After the merger, CHL will have a total income of Rs10.3bn (US$214.8m) and a net profit of over Rs1.1bn.

Hyundai restarts No1 C2

20 January. Hyundai Petrochemical Co has restarted its 500 000 tonne/year No1 cracker in Daesan, South Korea, after a five-day shutdown due to a power outage, a source at the company said today.

The source said the power outage occurred early on 12 January and the company restarted the unit on 16 January. The cracker is now operating at full capacity.

Hyundai restarted its downstream units on 15 January, ahead of the cracker. It was able to do so as it had been building up its ethylene and propylene inventories in preparation for a maintenance shutdown planned for its 550 000 tonne/year No2 cracker.

A date for the shutdown of the No2 cracker, which will enable Hyundai to correct a minor technical fault, has yet to be fixed. The shutdown will last about one week.

Hyundai operates two crackers at the Daesan site. The No2 cracker was unaffected by the outage.

Shanghai Petchem restarts 700 ktpa C2

20 January. Shanghai Petrochemical Co (SPC) has restarted its 700 000 tonne/year cracker in Jinshanwei, Shanghai, China, following a 10-day shutdown, a company spokesman said today. The unit was restarted on 17 January.

The spokesman said the company needed to conduct routine maintenance on the cracker after it had been run at above 100% capacity for several months in order to meet production targets.

He said the company had achieved its 2002 annual target after running the unit at above 2700 tonne/day before the shutdown. It risked falling below its 2002 output target after an unplanned shutdown of its main cracker that was caused by a fire last July.

In early December, the company said it did not expect to undertake any major maintenance shutdowns at either of its two Jinshanwei crackers in 2003 as both had been upgraded recently. SPC also operates a 150 000 tonne/year cracker at the same site.

The spokesman said the shutdown had had no impact on SPC's downstream activities. The company operates a 250 000 tonne/year lldPE/hdPE plant and a 200 000 tonne/year PP plant at the site.

Vinyl Chloride eyes plant restarts

20 January. Vinyl Chloride (Malaysia), hopes to restart its 400 000 tonne/year vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plant in Kerteh, Malaysia, by 25 January, a company source said.

The company's 150 000 tonne/year PVC plant, located at the same site, will be restarted a few days after the VCM plant, he added.

Both plants were closed on 19 December owing to technical problems, the company said. Vinyl Chloride is a joint venture between Mitsui & Co and Petronas.

Tecnimont wins $220m EPC deal in China

20 January. Tecnimont announced that it has been awarded a US$220m engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to build three polyolefins plants for Shell Chemicals' joint venture in Nanhai, Guangdong, China.

The Italian engineering firm will build a 250 000 tonne/year ldPE plant, a 240 000 tonne/year PP plant and a 200 000 tonne/year lld/hdPE plant. These three plants will employ Basell's technologies and are expected to be completed in 2005.

They form part of the US$4.3bn Nanhai project complex that is being developed by Shell's joint venture with China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) - CNOOC & Shell Petrochemicals Co.

One killed, dozens hurt in street clashes

20 January. One person was killed and dozens more wounded by gunfire today during street clashes in Venezuela as Nobel Peace Prize winner and former US President Jimmy Carter tried to salvage peace talks between President Hugo Chavez and his foes, officials said.

Clashes involving police and rival protesters broke out when Chavez supporters attacked an opposition march in Charallave, south of Caracas.

Demonstrators exchanged volleys of bottles and rocks in confused running street battles. Local television images showed one man opening fire with a handgun as he rode on the roof of a jeep.

Degussa to continue investing in China

20 January. Degussa said today it will continue to invest tens of millions of euros in China 'for the next couple of years'. Chairman Utz-Hellmuth Felcht affirmed the company's long-term commitment to China in a speech at the official opening of Degussa (China) Holding.

The subsidiary has begun operations with an initial injection of Euro37m (US$39m) to fund future investments such as the company's R&D centre in Shanghai. Construction of this facility began in 2002.

Degussa has already spent more than Euro50m in China during the past couple of years. It sees China as a growth platform and aims to double the contribution of Asia as a whole from 13% of group sales in 2002 (Euro1.7bn) to 26% in the medium term.

Degussa (China) Holding will act as an umbrella for the company's 11 sites in China which employ 800 people.

El Tablazo complex to restart 'in 6 weeks'

20 January. The El Tablazo petrochemicals complex in Venezuela will be fully functioning within six weeks, a senior official said today.

The public affairs manager at state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), Mario Socorro, said sodium chlorite production at El Tablazo was already back to its full daily capacity of 90 tonne.

Restarting sodium chlorite production was designated a national priority by Venezuelan authorities because of its use in water purification.

El Tablazo is Venezuela's second biggest petrochemical complex with 3.4m tonne/year capacity in olefins, plastics, fertilisers and industrial products.

Operated by PDVSA subsidiary Petroquimica de Venezuela, the El Tablazo complex was forced to shut down in mid-December as a result of Venezuela's general strike, which created transport difficulties and a severe shortage of feedstocks.

Degussa starts work on China amino acid

21 January. Degussa started construction this month on a new plant to produce the pharmaceutical amino acid L-methionine at Wuming in southern China, the company said in a statement today.

The new plant, which is scheduled to start up in the first quarter of 2004, will have a capacity of 350 tonne/year.

Nanning Only Time Rexim Pharmaceuticals Co, a joint venture set up between Degussa Fine Chemicals and Nanning Only Time Pharmaceuticals in April 2001 for the production and marketing of pharmaceutical intermediates, will operate the plant.

Through its wholly owned subsidiary Rexim SA, Degussa owns 95% of the joint venture, which employs 220 people and had sales of Euro4m in 2002.

Korean majors' due diligence on Hyundai

21 January. Preferred bidders LG Chem and Honam Petrochemical will complete their joint due diligence on debt-distressed Hyundai Petrochemical by the end of next week, a source close to the companies said today.

Hyundai's creditors will then decide whether or not they want to close the sale with the LG/Honam consortium by the end of January or early February.

LG and Honam's bid for Hyundai could be undermined by a possible revised offer from Koch. Sources said Koch might consider taking over the entire outstanding debt of Hyundai - totalling Won2300bn (US$1.9bn) - as well as paying back about Won1000bn of its debt in cash.

Koch is also believed to have proposed repaying Hyundai's remaining debt later with the company's future operating profits, according to industry sources. The company will be allowed to negotiate for a stake in Hyundai if talks between creditors and the LG-Honam consortium fail.

Mitsui Chemicals to up cumene

21 January. Mitsui Chemicals will expand its 100 000 tonne/year cumene plant in Osaka, Japan, to 280 000 tonne/year by August 2004, a company spokesman said.

The company will invest Yen2bn (US$16m) in the cumene expansion, which is being undertaken to provide feedstock for Mitsui's 200 000 tonne/year phenol plant in Osaka, the spokesman added.

Sinopec's C2 output to rise 12.5%

21 January. Ethylene production by China Petroleum and Chemical Corp (Sinopec) is expected to rise by 12.5% to 3.05m tonne in 2003 from about 2.72m tonne last year, according to the company's 2003 production plan.

Sinopec's ethylene output rose 27% in last year from 2.15m tonne in 2001.

Its synthetic resin output is expected to rise to 4.46m tonne this year from about 4.01m tonne in 2002. Synthetic resin production totalled 3.2m in 2001.

Synthetic-fibre production will increase moderately in 2003 to 1.23m tonne from 1.15m tonne last year. It totalled 1.03m tonne in 2001.

Sinopec's synthetic-rubber production will remain fairly steady this year at 468 000 tonne from 458 000 tonne in 2002. It had risen by about 15% in 2002 from 398 000 tonne a year earlier.

Urea production is expected to total 2.77m tonne in 2003, up from 2.67m tonne a year earlier and 2.34m tonne in 2001.

NCIP to be China's petchem hub No2

21 January. The State Development Planning Commission has granted approval for the Nanjing Chemical Industry Park (NCIP) to become China's second official petrochemical hub after the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park (SCIP), an NCIP source said today.

The source said the approval means investors in the NCIP would be given the same privileges as those enjoyed by SCIP investors.

The NCIP will be home to BASF-YPC Co's 600 000 tonne/year cracker project when construction work on the cracker is completed in 2004-05. The project is a joint venture between BASF and a Sinopec subsidiary, Yangzi Petrochemical.

The park already houses Yangzi Petrochemical's newly expanded 650 000 tonne/year cracker complex and Nanjing Chemical Industrial Co's caprolactam plant.

Mitsubishi Chemal to buy Tonen's JPC stake

21 January. Mitsubishi Chemical has reached a basic agreement to acquire Tonen Chemical's 35% stake in Japan Polychem (JPC), the two companies' joint venture, for an undisclosed sum, a Mitsubishi spokesman said.

Mitsubishi plans to merge JPC's PE operations with another PE joint venture, Japan Polyolefins (JPO), in Q1 2003. It also intends to merge JPC's PP operations with Chisso Corp. The spokesman said that, after the JPC share purchase, the company would swiftly realise the planned alliances with JPO and Chisso.

Although the company would not provide financial details on the deal, a source close to the talks said in November last year that it was likely to pay more than US$57.8m.

Mitsubishi said a detailed agreement would be concluded soon and the final share purchase would follow shortly thereafter.

JPO is 65%-owned by Showa Denko, with partner Nippon Petrochemicals owning a 35% stake. A JPC-JPO merger would see the new entity take a 40% share of the domestic PE market, with the next largest player holding only 13%. If given the green light, it would bring together two of Japan's major polyolefin producers, combining JPC's PE capacity of 732 000 tonne/year with JPO's 676 000 tonne/year.

Daelim's net profit almost triples in 2002

21 January. Daelim Industrial saw its 2002 net profit almost triple to Won118.3bn (US$100.3m) from Won43.5bn in the previous year on a continued boom in the construction market, reduced costs and gains from its equity holdings, it said today.

Although the company's gains were almost entirely attributable to its construction division, it said it expects a recovery in its petrochemical business to contribute to improved group performance in 2003.

Daelim's sales increased by 5.4% to Won2650bn and its recurring profit more than doubled to Won187.2bn from Won80.9bn a year earlier.

The company reduced its debts to Won286.2bn, pushing its debt-to-equity ratio to 87.8% at end-2002 from 95.4% at end-2001.

Its petrochemicals division reported an operating loss of Won1.5bn in Q3 2002 as sales of petrochemicals fell by 11% to Won310.7bn from Won349.2bn. The operating loss was Won3.2bn in the corresponding quarter of 2001.

The company operates three hdPE lines at Yeochun, each with a capacity of 130 000 tonne/year, and a PP plant with a capacity of 450 000 tonne/year.

First of three Q-Chem projects completed

21 January. Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem) and Qatar Petroleum have completed construction on their worldscale petrochemical complex in Mesaieed, Qatar, and expect to start production soon, CPChem said today.

Operated by a CPChem-Qatar joint venture named Qatar Chemical (Q-Chem), the Mesaieed complex is the first of three projects planned for Qatar by Q-Chem.

It includes a 500 000 tonne/year ethylene cracker, a 453 000 tonne/year PE plant and a 47 000 tonne/year 1-hexane plant.

Both of the other projects are scheduled to begin operations in 2007. They will include a facility next to the ethylene cracker in Mesaieed for production of PE and normal alpha olefins.

The third project will include the construction of an ethane cracker in northern Qatar in Ras Laffan Industrial City, according to CPChem. The cracker will provide feedstock to the derivative units in Mesaieed by pipeline.

TPL's net profit falls by 74%

22 January. Tamilnadu Petroproducts Ltd (TPL) has reported a 74% year-on-year decrease in its Q3 net profit to 31 December 2002 as a result of lower sales and an increase in the prices of feedstock, intermediates, power and fuel.

The company's net profit plunged to Rs23.8m (US$496402) from Rs91.9m. Its sales fell by 15% to Rs1.89bn from Rs2.23bn, and operating profit decreased by 23% to Rs285.2m from Rs370m.

TPL operates a 62 000 tonne/year n-paraffin plant, a 100 000 tonne/year linear alkyl benzene (LAB) unit and a 10 000 tonne/year epichlorohydrin facility at Manali near Chennai in Tamilnadu, India. It is scheduled to complete the expansion of its n-paraffin plant to 94 000 tonne/year and LAB facility to 120 000 tonne/year by April this year.

The company also operates a 66 000 tonne/year caustic soda unit, a 40 000 tonne/year chlorine facility, a 49 500 tonne/year hydrochloric acid plant and a 21 000 tonne/year ammonium chloride facilityat Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, India.

Quake rocks Mexico, kills 23

22 January. A powerful earthquake shook central and western Mexico last night, killing at least 23 people on the Pacific coast and sending panicked residents rushing into the streets in tears.

'There are many houses that have fallen down and many buildings destroyed,' Red Cross volunteer Marta Requena said in the western city of Colima near the epicentre. Emergency workers struggled to treat at least 100 people who were injured in Colima, a city of some 125000 people where walls and homes collapsed.

The quake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, rocked homes and offices in Mexico City, 496 km to the east, where power was briefly cut and buildings cracked.

DSCL to produce PVC windows for HWG

22 January. DCM Shriram Consolidated Ltd (DSCL) is to produce unplasticised polyvinyl chloride (UPVC) and fabricated UPVC windows after signing a technical and marketing agreement with Heywood Williams Group (HWG) of the UK.

HWG is the market leader for polymer-based window systems in the UK and has a presence in several other countries. DSCL is a manufacturer of PVC, caustic soda, chlorine, water treatment chemicals, urea, sugar and cement in India.

A DSCL official said the company would invest Rs750m (US$15.6m) over five years in the new business.

ExxonMobil's benzene unit back at 100%

22 January. ExxonMobil has ramped up its 350 000 tonne/year benzene plant at its Jurong refinery in Singapore to full capacity after a nine-day shutdown for equipment repair and maintenance work, the company confirmed today.

The plant was shut on 10 January and restarted on 19 January, producing on-spec material a day later.

ExxonMobil said its customers had not experienced any benzene supply cutbacks due to the shutdown.

BASF Petronas delays BDO startup to Q2

22 January. BASF Petronas has delayed the expected startup date of its 100 000 tonne/year butanediol (BDO) plant at Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia to Q2 of this year due to market conditions, a company spokesman said today.

He said mechanical completion would be achieved in Q1 of this year, pushed back from an original schedule of Q4 2001. The project's engineering and construction company is Kvaerner. BASF Petronas began construction of the plant in November 2000.

When fully operational, the plant will have the capacity to produce 100 000 tonne of BDO equivalent which includes the production of tetrahydrofurane and g-butyrolactone These products are used in the manufacture of engineering plastics, sports clothing and personal care products.

Daelim's petchem unit's op losses triple

22 January. Daelim Industrial's petrochemical division posted operating losses that more than tripled to Won9.4bn (US$7.99m) in 2002 from Won3bn a year earlier as its sales fell 10.4% year-on-year to Won403.9bn, according to data issued by the company.

Daelim's petrochemical division posted sales of Won451bn in 2001. The division's 2002 results fell short of the company's forecasts in November.

At that time, Daelim estimated that petrochemical sales would reach Won421.4bn, still a year-on-year decrease of 6.5%. The division had forecast full-year operating losses of Won7bn.

Toray to up polyester-film capacity

22 January. Toray Industries plans to increase its polyester-film capacity by a total of 9600 tonne/year in Japan as well as overseas by 2005, a company spokesman said.

The company will retool its 45 600 tonne/year polyester film plant in Gifu, Japan, to add 4800 tonne/year.

It will also add 2400 tonne/year of polyester film each at its plants in Kumi, South Korea, and Lyon, France, respectively. The existing capacity of the plant in Kumi is 9000 tonne/year and that of the Lyon plant is 50 000 tonne/year.

HLCL, TCL may merge

22 January. Unilever's Indian associate, Hind Lever Chemicals Ltd (HLCL), and Tata Chemicals Ltd (TCL) may merge soon if a proposal being studied by the respective boards of the two companies goes through.

If the proposal materialises, it would be the first mega-merger in the fertiliser and detergent intermediates sector in India in recent years. It would also result in Unilever indirectly holding a minority stake in TCL through its prized subsidiary, Hindustan Lever Ltd.

The merger proposal will be considered by the respective boards of the two companies at separate meetings on 24 January.

PNOC, IPCC sign MoU on downstream jv

22 January. The Philippine National Oil Co (PNOC) has signed an MoUwith the Iran Petrochemical Commercial Co (IPCC) for possible joint ventures in the Philippine downstream petrochemical sector, the PNOC said.

Without giving any details of the proposed projects, PNOC chairman Thelmo Cunanan said the two companies would designate representatives who would meet immediately to carry out the terms of co-operation.

He said the PNOC and IPCC would enter into specific agreements later and formulate a working framework and timetable within the next six months.

Cunanan was in Iran recently for talks on an oil-supply deal and joint petrochemical ventures.

Pequiven gets new board of directors

22 January. Petroquimica de Venezuela (Pequiven) appointed a new board of directors today as the 52-day strike forced suspension of Venezuela's currency exchange for five days.

Employees at the company received a communique detailing the new appointments. The communique said the new board was appointed by the board of Pequiven's parent company, Petroleos de Venezuela, on 16 January. It remained unclear why the news of the appointments had been delayed.

Pequiven was forced to shutter virtually all its operations in mid-December as a result of Venezuela's general strike, which created severe shortages of feedstock and transport difficulties.

Meanwhile, there were further indications that the strike is affecting Venezuela's economic stability severely. The Venezuelan government suspended its currency-exchange system for five business days late yesterday in the wake of the bolivar's recent collapse against the US dollar.

The move prompted fears that the government is considering currency controls for the first time since April 1996. The currency's collapse has worsened in January, and by the time the suspension announcement was made the bolivar had lost 24.5% of its value in 2003.

The president of the National Assembly's finance commission, Rodrigo Cabezas, said a team of experts is working on establishing a fixed rate for the bolivar against the dollar.

Celanese may raise solvents prices

22 January. Celanese said it plans to seek substantial price increases in Europe and Asia for the solvents ethyl acetate and n-butyl acetate.

It wants to raise ethyl acetate prices from 1 February, or as contracts allow, by Euro50 (US$52.50)/tonne in Europe and US$50/tonne in Asia. N-butyl acetate price rises of Euro100/tonne in Europe and US$100/tonne in Asia will be sought from the same date.

Spot prices in Europe for ethyl acetate are currently around Euro650-750/tonne and prices for n-butyl acetate about Euro700. Southeast Asian spot prices are around Euro600-630 and Euro740-760 respectively.

SK Corp to oversee Oman refinery project

23 January. SK Corp has been awarded an operation maintenance contract by Oman Oil to oversee the operations of the latter's 75 000 bbl/day refinery project in Sohar, Oman, a company source said.

SK Corp's scope of work includes training staff and setting up a working framework for Sohar Refinery Co (SRC), which was formed by state-owned Oman Oil and the Ministry of Finance.

Worth more than US$100m, the contract requires SK Corp to oversee the project's engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) process and to stay on to ensure the proper operation of the refinery for another four years after its startup.

SRC awarded an EPC contract to a consortium formed by Chiyoda Corp and JGC, which submitted the lowest bid.

The refinery is due to come onstream by 2006, at the same time as a downstream PP project. The 340 000 tonne/year PP project will be 60% owned by Oman Oil and 20% each by LG International and ABB Lummus.

Creditors down KP Chem's debt plan

23 January. Creditors of heavily indebted KP Chemical have not agreed to lift the company's debt-restructuring programme despite a recent announcement by the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) that the company might soon graduate from the programme, a source close to the company said today.

The source said the FSS' announcement yesterday was not based on information endorsed by all of the company's creditors and did not indicate that such a move was imminent. He said the creditors had not agreed to any plan under which KP Chem would resume a regular schedule of debt repayment.

Singapore's chems 'face tough year'

23 January. Singapore's chemicals cluster faces a difficult year ahead against the backdrop of an uncertain world economic outlook, according to Aw Kah Peng, the Economic Development Board's (EDB) director of chemicals.

However, she said she was confident of the cluster's long term outlook and saw the signing of an LoI by Shell Chemicals and Sumitomo Chemical to undertake a feasibility study for a 1m tonne/year cracker as a vote of confidence in the Republic's status as a global petrochemical hub.

The EDB is looking at further broadening and diversifying the chemicals cluster by venturing into new growth areas such as performance materials and consumer care.

Reviewing 2002, the EDB said the chemicals cluster committed fixed-asset investments (FAI) worth S$2.1bn (US$1.2bn) in 2002 - up from S$1.9bn in 2001. This cluster continued to be the second largest contributor to Singapore's manufacturing FAI after the electronics and precision engineering cluster, it added.

The EDB said petrochemical output in 2002 rose by 29% to S$8.5bn, and value-added growth soared by 46% to S$1.4bn.

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